Eyebrows were raised when four-time Indian Premier League champions Chennai Super Kings began the mini-auction with the less-than-desirable acquisition of Ajinkya Rahane for INR 50 lakhs. Out of touch in T20 cricket and on the wrong side of 30, the general reaction to the deal on social media ranged from ‘Why?’ to ‘Are they out of their minds?’
However, by the time the mini-auction and following a couple of really smart picks, that sentiment changed entirely. Chennai Super Kings now have a more than competitive squad on their hands and have enough quality on the bench in case of any unforeseen injuries or absences. How did the auction pan out for them, what are the strengths and shortcomings of the team, and who are expected to make it to the probable starting XI?
The Super Kings splurged an eye-watering INR 16.25 crore on England all-rounder Ben Stokes, making him the joint third most expensive signing in Indian Premier League history. Stokes’ credentials in all formats of the game are beyond any doubt. Besides what he brings to the table with the bat and the ball, he is also crucial from the leadership perspective. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the ODI and T20I World Cup winner take the mantle of the side from MS Dhoni when he eventually departs.
After the sensational purchase of Stokes, the signings of Kyle Jamieson and Nishant Sandhu for a combined INR 1.6 crore went under the radar, but CSK have got excellent backup players who not only add depth to what is already looking like a terrific all-rounders’ combination, but can also surprise several teams with their abilities.
As things look on paper, CSK have immense batting quality as deep as the eighth or ninth batters. Having sensational all-rounders in Ravindra Jadeja, Moeen Ali, Dwaine Pretorius and Stokes adds plenty of value but what’s even more impressive is the fact that they still possess the likes of Jamieson, Mitchell Santner, and Rajvardhan Hangargekar, who can also bat a fair bit. In fact, having so many profiles only increases their headaches of where a certain player bats and who sits out, but it is one problem that any team personnel in the IPL would love to have.
One area of the game where the franchise clearly lack a reliable name is in death overs bowling. Among the current bowlers in the squad – Deepak Chahar, Mukesh Choudhary, Dwaine Pretorius, or even Stokes and Tushar Deshpande – nobody is accustomed to nailing matchups in the death overs on a regular basis. This could prove to be a huge problem for going forward.
Chahar has also been injury prone in recent years, and in his absence, CSK don’t exactly have a similar player of his profile, especially one capable of striking frequently in the powerplay.
Another area of concern for CSK could be in the spin department. While the likes of Maheesh Theekshana, Ravindra Jadeja and Moeen Ali could get the job done on the turning tracks that are usually found at Chepauk every year, they might fail to exert the same level of control and wicket-taking threat outside Chennai.
Predicted lineup for Chennai Super Kings
Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali/Devon Conway, Ambati Rayudu, Shivam Dube, MS Dhoni (c/wk), Dwaine Pretorius/Kyle Jamieson, Deepak Chahar, Maheesh Theekshana, Mukesh Choudhary